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Dominoes (Game): Origins & History | 25 Meaningful Facts About Dominoes

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

Dominoes is a game that has a long history of interesting events and developments over its existence. The game has continually evolved and is more popular than ever. While a simple game, it can be enjoyed casually and competitively and has a decently high skill ceiling that allows experienced players to play with advanced tactics and dominate other players. 

Dominoes have an extensive and varied history, from its origins in ancient China to its adoption in most of Europe, resulting in the version of the game we have today. Many cultures have adopted Dominoes as a pastime, and it has worked to bring communities together. 

While dominoes is mostly seen as a casual game played between groups of friends to entertain and pass the time, it has a rich and complex history that spans hundreds of years. Dominoes has seen various changes and variations throughout history, and it is very interesting to look back at these changes and discover how the game has reached its modern form.

These are 25 facts and events from the history of dominoes:

1. The Earliest Versions Of Dominoes Were Found In Egypt

The earliest records of a game somewhat similar to Dominoes have been traced to ancient Egypt. 

2. This Ancient Egyptian Game Is Unrelated to Modern Dominoes

While the game that the Ancient Egyptians played has elements of later versions of Dominoes, this game was somewhat different and is seen as a distinct game unrelated to modern dominoes.

3. Domino Sets Have Been Found In Ancient Egyptian Tombs

A Dominoes set was found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb, dating back to about 1355 BC. This suggests that dominoes-like-games were popular among the upper class and royalty during this time.

4. Domino Tiles May Have Originated In Babylon

Babylonian citizens used tiles with dots imprinted into them to record transactions and keep records for accounting purposes. These tiles may have later evolved into Domino tiles over centuries. 

5. Dominoes Were Invented In China

The earliest examples of a game that evolved into modern Dominoes come from 13th-century China, where important statesmen and the upper class played the game before eventually being introduced to the whole of Chinese society. 

6. Early Dominoes Pieces Were Made Of Various Materials

The earliest dominoes pieces were made of wood, stone, and sometimes even animal bones (which may be why a slang term for Domino pieces is “bones”). Modern Domino pieces are made from heavy plastic. 

7. Chinese Domino Sets Were Quite Different From Modern Sets

Chinese Domino tiles were divided into 2 classes, Military And Civil, with both classes of tile being found in a single set. Chinese Domino tiles are also longer than western tiles. 

8. Folk Tales Exist In China About The Invention Of Dominoes

Chinese laborers that came to the USA claimed that the game was invented by Hung Min, a folk hero in early Chinese history. 

9. Other Stories Exist About The Invention Of Dominoes

A few other Chinese leaders are said to have invented the game, notably Keung T’ai Kung and Fan Lai, though the earliest records claim that it was introduced to Emperor Hwui Tsung in 1120 CE.

10. Dominoes Originated From Dice Games

Dominoes was created from much older games involving 2 dice being thrown, adding up to 32. This is why older Chinese Dominoes sets have 32 pieces, while Western sets have 28. 

11. Dominoes Arose In Europe In The 18th Century

Dominoes surfaced in Italy in the 1700s and spread throughout mainland Europe. The first official record of the game appears in the Dictionnaire de Trévoux, with it likely being played for a few years before under a different name.

12. Dominoes Were Introduced To England In The Late 1700s

Dominoes were first introduced to England by French prisoners of war and spread all over England during the 1800s.

13. The Word “Domino” Was The Name Of Religious Clothes

“Domino” was a French word originally referring to a hood worn by Christian priests in the winter. It is unclear how the term became the game’s name, but this is probably the origin of the name for Dominoes.

14. The Invention Of Dominoes In Europe

Historians are uncertain if Dominoes were introduced to Europe by Chinese traders or if they were invented independently there in the 18th Century. 

15. European Vs. Chinese Versions Of Dominoes

European and Chinese versions of Dominoes are different, yet they are both considered to be similar enough to have a single origin point. It is likely that the Chinese version had somewhat of an influence on the version played in Europe. 

16. Marco Polo May Have Brought Dominoes To Europe

During Marco Polo’s travels, he spent a number of years in China and became familiar with the customs of the Chinese aristocracy. Some historians believe he brought the game back to Europe during his return voyage, as Italy is the first western country to play Dominoes. 

17. Dominoes Became Popular During The 19th Century

Dominoes became a popular game that was often played in coffee shops between groups of friends and later became a game commonly played in pubs and bars, especially in the UK.

18. Inuit Peoples Have Been Playing Dominoes For Centuries

Inuits have a game similar to dominoes that use tiles made of bone. This game is often thought to be an adaptation of European Dominoes instead of an independent invention. 

19. French Colonists Introduced Dominoes To Inuits

It is likely that Dominoes were brought over to Canada during the establishment of New France and subsequently were introduced to Inuit peoples that traded and interacted with the French colonists. 

20. Dominoes Were Introduced To America By The British

As America was formerly a British colony, they brought the game of Dominoes there after it became popular in Europe, with the game still being played very regularly in America in modern times. 

21. A Domino Tile Was Found On The Wreckage Of The Mary Rose

A single Dominoes tile was found in the wreck of the Mary Rose in the 16th Century, though it has been speculated that the tile was planted there after the wreck.

22. Dominoes Became Very Popular In Latin America

After the Spanish colonized much of Latin America, Dominoes became a popular pastime there, with it being the national game of a few countries, such as Cuba and the Dominican Republic.

23. Mexican Train Dominoes Are Actually A Chinese Invention

While originating in Cuba, Mexican Train Dominoes is the American name for a Chinese dominoes game called Pai Gow, which was introduced to Cuba in the 1850s. 

24. Mexican Train Dominoes In America

Known in Mexico as “Domino Cubano,” Mexican Train Dominoes were brought to the USA by Mexican railroad workers in the 1910s, who learned how to play the game from their Cuban colleagues. 

25. Dominoes Became A Popular Gambling Game

Due to its need for both luck and skill, Dominoes became a common gambling game in the USA throughout the 20th Century, being played both in casinos and much more in illegal gambling dens.  

In Closing

Dominoes is a game with a very interesting history and has changed considerably from its humble beginnings in the ancient world to the way it is played in the modern age. Throughout its history, there has been one aspect that has always remained the same: it has required a considerable amount of skill and luck. It is a game that will be played for generations to come.

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.